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amiable character in their view ? Would they choose to live un. der a government where vice, violence, and confusion were not restrained by the execution of the law, but shared in the rewards, or at least, in the indemnity of perfect obedience ? would they choose a king, who, through a false notion of lenity and mercy, would suffer criminals to pass with impunity? Do not the innocent part of the subjects approve of the conduct of their rulers in condemning and executing criminals, as well as in protecting themselves ? and what a murmuring spreads through a govern: ment, when such are tolerated or approved ? The complaint we hear of the excessive strictness of divine justice, the cruelly of eternal torments, &c. is the voice of guilt, and we should regard it no more than the clamours of a band of robbers against the just laws of their country. Justice, my brethren, is not that grim, horrible, and forbidding attribute, which the guilty are apt to imagine ; it is not only a majestic, but an amiable, agreeable, lovely perfection ; it is a part of the moral beauty of the divine nature ; it is essential to the character of a good ruler ; it is necessary to the public good ; it is absolutely necessary to the exercise of goodness itself. The judicious, well-conducted exercise of good. ness is not a promiscuous, indiscriminating communication of hap. piness at random ; but the communication of happiness according to the real characters of the subjects ; it supposes a distinction of the obedient and disobedient. No government can subsist without this ; and this is the very nature of distributive justice. Hence it follows that the display of divine justice, as well as grace, in the sufferings of Christ, represents the divine nature in an amiable light to us, as infinitely worthy of our love as well as of our fear. But,
V. The way of salvation through the sufferings of Jesus Christ gives the most wonderful and surprising display of the perfections of God. That is a cause of wonder and surprise, which is strange and uncommon, new and unexpected ; and certainly we can never meet with things more strange, uncommon, and unexpected than in the way of salvation through Christ. I have mentioned some of them already with another view ; and now I shall enumerate a few wonders more. At the creation, a world was brought out of a state of non-existence into a being ; but in this way sinners are brought into a state of complete happiness and glory out of a state infinitely worse than that of non-existence. In the old creation, as there were no pre-existent materials, or tendency to
not wholly becloud his glory : many beams shone through the disguise. His birth was mean on earth below : but it was celebrated with hallelujahs by the heavenly host in the air above. He had a poor lodging ; but a star lighted visitants to it from distant countries. Never prince had such visitants, su conducted. He had not the magnificent equipage that other kings bave : but he was attended with multitudes of patients, seeking and obtaining healing of soul and body ; that was more true greatness than if he had been attended with crowds of princes. He made the dumb that attended him to sing his praises, and the lame to leap for joy ; the deaf to hear his wonders, and the blind to see his glory. He had no guard of soldiers, nor magnificent retinue of servants : but, as the centurion that had both, acknowledged, health and sickness, life and death, took orders from him : even the winds and storms, which no earthly power could control, obey him ; and death and the grave durst not refuse to deliver up their prey when he demanded it. He did not walk upon tapestry ; but when he walked on the sea, the waters supported him. All parts of the creation, except sinful man, honoured him as their Creator. He had no treasure ; but when he had occasion for money, the sea sent it to him in the mouth of a fish. He had no barns nor corn-fields ; but when he inclined to make a feast, a few loaves covered a sufficient table for many thousands. Nor was his glory wholly clouded at his death : He had not indeed that phantastic equipage of sorrow that other great persons have on such occasions, but the frame of nature solemnized the death of its Author : heaven and earth were mourners, the sun was clad in black, and, if the inhabitants of the earth were unmoved, the earth trembled under the awful load. There were few to pay the Jewish compliment of rending their garments ; but the rocks were not so insensible ; they rent their bowels. He had not a grave of his own, but other men's graves opened to him. Death and the grave might be proud of such a tenant in their territories ; but he came there, not as a subject, but as an invader, a conqueror ; it was then the king of terrors lost his sting, and on the third day the Prince of Life triumphed over him, spoiling death and the grave.”—These are the things, my brethren, this ordinance was designed to commemorate : and certainly these are full of glory.
6. These things may furnish you with proper materials for meditation this day. Fix your thoughts upon the glories of God displayed in a crucified Jesus, take a survey of the scheme of sal. vation through his blood, as bringing not only salvation to you, but honour to him ; and wonder, love, and adore.
Finally, Let us all fall in with this glorious method of salvation ; and join with God and Christ, and the whole creation, in glorifying God in this way ; and in this way, and none else, we shall find salvation for ourselves.
RELIGION THE HIGHEST WISDOM, AND SIN
MADNESS AND FOLLY.
PSALM III. 10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
a good understanding have all they that do his commandments. *
WISDOM is a character so honourable and ornamental to a reasonable being, that those who best knew the dignity of their own nature, have had no higher ambition than to be esteemed and called lovers of it. Hence the original of the name Philosopher,t which signifies no more than a lover of wisdom. On the other hand, there is hardly any character deemed more reproachful, or that is more resented, than that of a fool. Men are often as jealous of the reputation of their understandings as of their morals, and think it as great a reproach to be without sense as without goodness.
There is a prodigious diversity in the intellectual capacities of mankind, and their souls differ as much as their bodies ; but whether it be owing to the intrinsic difference of their souls, or to the different formation of their bodies, is not my present purpose to determine. Some, that share in human nature, give very lit. tle discoveries of reason abore the most sagacious sorts of brutes. The generality are endowed with common sense, which, though it has nothing brilliant and pompous in it, and does not qualify them for high improvements in science, or making a figure in the learned world, yet it is sufficient for all the purposes of life, and
* Job xxviii. 28. Prov. i. 7. and ix. 10. † Dilorofos, quasi Qinos copias a lover of wisdom. This name Phy. thagoras accepted, when he thought that of Lodos, a wise man, was too ostentatious and arrogant for him. VOL. II.
the necessities of a human creature. There are a few also who seem raised beyond their species, and perhaps approach near to the lower ranks of angels by a superior genius. These have been the first inventors and improvers of useful arts and sciences; which others of inferior understanding, are able to put in practice for their own purposes, though they had not sagacity at first to discover them.
This little world of ours is an improved spot in the creation. How vastly different an appearance does it now make from its original state of pure nature, when it emerged out of chaos, uncultivated by art ! What numerous arts and trades have been found out to furnish life with necessaries and comforts ! How deeply have some penetrated into the world of knowledge! They have traced the secret workings of nature ; they have even brought intelligence from the worlds above us, and discovered the courses and revolutions of the planets.
When you see these discoveries, you would conclude mankind to be a wise race of creatures ; and indeed in such things as these they discover no inconsiderable abilities. Almost every man in his province can manage his affairs with some judgment. Some can manage a farm ; others are dexterous in mechanics ; others have a turn for mercantile affairs ; others can unfold the mysteries of nature, and carry their searches far into the ideal worlds ; others can conduct an army, or govern a nation. In short, every man forms some scheme which he apprehends will conduce to his temporal advantage ; and prosecutes it with some degree of judgment.
But is this all the wisdom that becomes a candidate for eternity? Has he a good understanding who only acts with reason in the affairs of this life ; but, though he is to exist forever in another world, and to be perfectly happy or miserable there, yet takes no thought about the concerns of his immortal state? Is this wisdom? Is this consistent even with common sense ? No ; with sorrow and solemnity I would speak it, the most of men in this respect are fools and madmen; and it is impossible for the most frantic madmen in Bedlam to act more foolishly about the affairs of this life, than they generally do about the affairs of religion and eternity. There is such a thing as a partial madness; a person may have, as it were, one weak side to his mind, and it may be sound and rational in other respects. You may meet with some lunatics and madmen that will converse reasonably with you,
and you would not suspect their heads are disordered, till you touch upon some particular point, and then you are to expect reason from them no more ; they talk the wildest nonsense, and are governed entirely by their imaginations. Thus, alas! it is with the generality of mankind in the present case. They are wise for this world; they talk and act at least agreeably to common sense ; but hear them talk and observe their conduct about the concerns of their souls, and you can call them reasonable creatures no longer. They are wise to do evil ; but to do good they have no knowledge : there is none that understandeth ; there is none that seeketh after God. To bring them to themselves by exposing to them their madness, is my present design.
The text shews us the first step to true wisdom, and the test of common sense : The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom ; a good understanding have all they that do his commandments. This is so frequently repeated, that it may pass for a scripture maxim : and we may be sure it is of singular importance. Job starts the question, Where shall wisdom be found ? and where is the place of understanding ? He searches nature through, in quest of it, but cannot find it: he cannot purchase it with the gold of Ophir ; and its price is above rubies. At length he recollects the primitive instruction of God to man, and there he finds it : he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom ; and to depart from evil is understanding. Job xxviii. 28. Solomon, the wisest of men, begins his proverbs with this maxim, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Prov. i. 7. And he repeats it again, Prov. ix. 10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom ; and the knowledge of the holy (the knowledge of those that may
be called saints with a sheer ) is understanding. The fear of the Lord, in scripture, signifies not only that pious passion of filial reverence of our adorable Father who is in heaven, but it is frequently put for the whole of practical religion ; hence it is explained in the last part of the verse, by doing his commandments. The fear of the Lord, in this latitude, implies all the graces and all the virtues of christianity ; in short, all that holiness of heart and life which is necessary to the enjoyment of everlasting happiness. So that the sense of the text is this : “To practise religion and virtue, to take that way which leads to everlasting happiness, is wisdom, true wisdom, the beginning of wisdom, the first step towards it ; unless you begin here, you can never attain it ; all your wisdom without this, does not deserve